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THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FLEXIBLE

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FLEXIBLE

Most of us take flexibility for granted until it lets us down. Everyday life involves a lot more bending and twisting than we realise. Add active sports and suddenly flexibility really matters, both for performance and to avoid injury. What makes us flexible and how can we get bendier?

WHAT DETERMINES FLEXIBILITY?

The human body has an amazing range of motion. Even hinge joints such as ankles and wrists allow rotation, while our shoulders give us the ability to move our arms in almost any directions.

Children and young people are much bendier, and some people also have a genetic advantage. This is why high-level gymnastics is a sport for teenagers, especially young women who are also naturally more flexible during their childbearing years. Men can be less flexible, and a disadvantage of big muscles is that they can reduce ranges of motion.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO IMPROVE IT?

It isn’t necessary to be a born gymnast to improve flexibility. When it comes to movement, ‘use it or lose it’ is very important. Take any opportunity to move, to bend and to flex.

There are also plenty of targeted stretches, either as a stretch workout or as spare moment desk exercises. It is very important that muscles are warmed up before trying tougher stretches. Pushing cold or sleep-stiffened muscles too hard can cause injury, so take care.

SHOULD I STRETCH BEFORE OR AFTER A WORKOUT?

This appears to depend on the type of stretching. Static stretches are those simply involve moving the muscle as far as it will go, and then holding the position. Dynamic stretches are low-intensity movements (such as gentle squats or lunges) – but never ‘bounces’ which can cause injuries.

Current thinking is that dynamic stretches are best before a workout, as they get the blood flowing and so warm up muscles. Static stretches should be done after a workout to reduce the risk of injuring joints, which need warm muscles to support them.

Bend and stretch whenever you can – it pays off!

the author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.

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